ANITA AND STEWART
The words kind of rambled across his mind, as he sat and thought about a late breakfast. The words were 'Great Expectations'.
He smiled a rueful smile.
"Yes," he said to himself, "I remember that. We had to read it in high school, and I hated it. I always wondered if it was my fault or if it was really a bore. Hmmm, 'Great Expectations'."
He mused again and said: "Maybe that title is as appropriate as anything. I just don't know." He closed down that kind of thinking right away, simply refusing to look at his situation from such a vantage point. It was speculation that he simply wasn't interested in at all.
But his mind was in a jumble. Just the popping into his mind of that dreadful — he'd reread it and didn't like it upon re-reading it, though he did in fact like Dickens a great deal — book title 'Great Expectations' was the sign of his mental state.
There had been lately for him, for Stewart John Rainert, so much that was great and then was equally dreadful. It was hard to assimilate it all.
There was his degree. The beauty of that was certainly short lived but he was in fact now 'Dr Stewart John Rainert, PhD. He remembered the joy of that. The dissertation done; the work all finished. It had felt grand.
There wasn't much family to share it with and, apart from his wonderful Uncle Ned, it seemed like such a solitary, personal kind of triumph. But Ned was there, and the two of them had a celebration.
Ned even gave him a gift of a trip to celebrate. He told Stewart that he needed to simply pick the destination.
Stewart had been going over that information, that gift in his mind lately and he more and more thought of going to the southwest to see scenery and sites that were, up until then, only pictures in magazines and on television specials. That appealed to him.
He'd also had an agreement with his Uncle Ned. Ned had made it abundantly clear that he wanted to simply take care of the expenses of Stewart's education.
In that conversation, Stewart talked to Ned about his desire to be the 'master' of his life. He made it, he thought, totally clear that he was not spurning Ned's help. Not at all. But maybe that help could be by making sure that Stewart had a job and could afford his own way.
Ned had told Stewart at the time that that kind of attitude made sense to him.
"It speaks to me about your Mom and Dad clearly," Ned had said, and so, the two of them worked it that way.
Stewart worked for Ned at one of his plants and was able to keep his schedule, get his work done, get his education and, finally, get his PhD degree.
He had been clear and open with his praise for Uncle Ned and the help that he did indeed give.
Ned had said to him that he realized that Stewart was being 'grown up' about his future and the way he wanted his future to be.
So, Stewart had come out of the situation as Dr. Stewart Rainert, and had received an appointment to teach history at the new local Jr College. It was his starting point and a grand one, he'd thought.
He was, right then, 24 years old and was, for most of the time, a runner. He'd done some running for the track team in high school and also in college. It was simply one of his odd interests. He had a head of wavy, sandy colored hair that was under control most of the time but not always.
'But of course, ' his was mentally reminded right then, 'that was only the first part of this sweet and sour kind of reality."
Stewart acknowledged that and went on with his thinking, his assessment. The next had been Uncle Ned's stroke. It was sudden; it was unexpected and it proved to be fatal.
"Well don't you look like you're about a thousand miles away," came a soft voice at Stewart's side.
He looked up and smiled at the waitress, or, as he thought of her, at 'his' waitress.
Her name was Anita and, since he'd been coming into this restaurant for all the years that he was busy studying, he knew her well. They were, in fact, friends.
On occasions, when Anita's boy, Mark was at the restaurant, after school waiting for her, Stewart would take Mark and go do something interesting.
He smiled at Anita.
"Sorry," he said, "Wool gathering."
"Big event?" she asked.
"Oh," he said, "My Uncle Ned died a week ago and I have to sit with the lawyer and iron out his stuff."
She got a genuinely stricken look on her face, and, holding his hand, said: "I'm so sorry. I know how you've talked about that man and his willingness to help you out."
"Yes," Stewart said, "His continuous willingness to let me do these things my way. He was superb. My Momma's little brother Ned. I guess they're together again now. At least that's what I hope."
He smiled at her then and said a quick: "Sorry to be so pokey here about ordering. I'll have the number one omelet, no peppers."
She smiled: "Right a number 1 with no peppers, and I am sorry to hear about your Uncle Ned. He certainly seemed like a gem, the times that you two were in here together."
"He was," Stewart said.
Then he broke into a smile and asked: "How's my pal?"
"Mark is fine," she said, "At school now. He'll be back here this afternoon."
"Maybe I'll stop by then and see if he and I can get into some trouble together," was his next statement.
"Then I'll ground you both!" she said with a soft giggle.
"Yes, Mom," he said, holding up a hand. "I promise only wholesome things this afternoon for him and me."
"You're so nice to even consider it," she said, "To help me out in this way."
"Hey," he answered, "We're pals here!" He held her hand, as he said this.
"Yes," she agreed, "Pals."
Then she went away to put in his order, shaking her head and saying to herself: "Pals! Too bad."
It's strange that maybe the same kind of sentence was traveling across his mind just then too.
He had his breakfast and then, as she was standing again at his table, looked at his watch and said: "Oh, I have to go. Meeting with Mr Caruso, the lawyer is in forty minutes."
"Good luck with that," she said to him.
"Tell Mark that I'll be in later," he said.
"Yes, I will," was her reply, "That will make his day."
"Good," he said.
She took the time, when he stood up to pull him into a hug. It surprised him a bit but pleased him no end. The thought that was in his mind just then was how great she felt, pressed against him.
"I appreciate you taking care of my Mark," she said.
"Yes, welcome," he said, "Pals, you know."
He'd said it this time more softly, as though it were something about which he had to think.
Allowing Mark to come to the restaurant was one of the ways that Anita Corso dealt with the way her life had turned out.
Mark at that point, was nine years old. She'd had him during the first year of her marriage to Wayne Corso. Wayne had turned out to be a party person. Being married never stopped that at all.
He seemed to be pleased at first about having a son but then it, after a bit, turned out to be just one more 'ho-hum' kind of thing at home, and no big thing at that.
For Anita, Mark was always a 'big thing'.
Then Wayne was gone; gone away with friends. Gone, in fact for years, when finally Anita, to get her life ordered, had divorced Wayne for abandonment. One of the weird things in Anita's life was that Wayne was never heard from in any way again. He'd just dropped off the map, kind of.
She didn't have good work skills but didn't mind working to make her and Mark's way. The restaurant was fine for her. She liked the people for whom she worked and was popular there.
They allowed Mark to come there after school and gradually, as she met and got to know Stewart, he and Mark formed a friendship, much as she and Stewart had also. Stewart began to do things with Mark in the afternoons. It was just grand.
Despite the kind of job she had, keeping her on her feet so much of the time, Anita Corso pushed herself to work out and keep fit. It was a kind of 'pride' thing for her. She worked out a couple times a week, and with her job, that kept her in good shape.
She was, at that point in her life, 30 years old. She had red hair and, with her job and all of her workouts, kept her 120 lbs under control. With green eyes, Anita Corso, despite her name, looked like an Irish treat.
MEETING WITH DAN CARUSO:
Dan Caruso greeted Stewart with a huge smile and a good handshake. They had known each other for quite a while. Dan, in addition to being Uncle Ned's lawyer, was also a good friend and the two of them would get together periodically. Stewart was frequently involved in such gatherings.
"Stewart," the smiling man said, as his secretary ushered Stewart into Dan's office.
"Mr Caruso," Stewart said, with his usual politeness.
"No, I guess not," Dan Caruso said, "It had better be Dan; I think."
"Thank you," Stewart said, "Dan it is then."
"Sorry for our circumstances," Dan said.
"I know," Stewart agreed, "He was a great man."
"He was that," Dan agreed. "First class head for business, kind gentleman, good to his friends, very generous. That's how I always found him."
"Yes," Stewart said, "You knew him well."
They sat down then in a small seating area off in a window alcove at the side of Dan's office. Dan had, on the table there, a pile of papers that would guide their conversation.
"How have you been, Stewart?" Dan asked, once they were seated.
.... There is more of this story ...